Editor’s note: The students of Appalachian State are on the road at the Iowa Caucus. They’ve been kind enough to provide a narrative of their journey complete with pictures. We hope to get a couple more updates from their adventure. You can also follow along on twitter and instagram using the hashtag #app2iowa.
Appalachian State University’s “The Iowa Project” course, couldn’t be more exciting for the 10 political science students who are participating the 2016 Iowa caucus process. As part of the course, students have engaged in campaign efforts, grassroots politics, and will observe first hand the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus. The #app2iowa journey began with 16 hours of traveling, across 878 miles, and through seven states, which brought students to their ultimate destination of Iowa City, Iowa. Since arriving in Iowa City, students have attended six candidate events and actually met personally with five of the presidential candidates. This experience has helped the students truly understand the value of retail politics, which reigns king in Iowa.
Their first event was a Marco Rubio town hall meeting in Burlington, Iowa. At this event, the students watched Rubio skillfully work the crowd and answer the wide range of questions presented by the potential voters in attendance. For instance, one participant asked Rubio how he felt about the “mark of Satan,” in the form of microchips in our arms. Rubio effectively avoided controversy by saying he was not informed on the subject but considers himself a man of strong faith. Following the Rubio event, the students returned to the road to attend a Ben Carson event that ended with a brief, but private, meeting with Dr. Carson and an interview with MTV News for two of the students. The group finished their first day in Iowa standing in line in below-freezing weather for what seemed like ages to attend a Hillary Clinton rally. After being introduced by former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton gave an energetic and passionate speech with the hope of mobilizing her support for Monday night’s caucusing.
Day Two started for several of the students with canvassing for their preferred candidate. While they enjoyed their campaign experiences, many of the Iowa residents were less than excited to find another student knocking on their door. The students understand their frustration after one potential voter noted he was averaging up to three campaigners on his front step a day for the last six months. Following a morning of canvassing, the entire group headed to Dubuque, Iowa, to see Donald Trump arrive for his campaign rally in his personal Boeing 757. In true Donald Trump fashion, Mr. Trump providing a scathing critique of the media, President Obama, and both his Republican and Democratic opponents.
Following Trump’s rally, the Democratic-leaning students headed back to Iowa City to attend a Sanders event and the Republican-leaning students stayed in Dubuque to assist the Jeb Bush campaign with a town hall meeting. Jeb’s town hall was quite exciting. Held at an American Legion Hall, there were more than a few inebriated regulars who tried to steal Bush’s spotlight. However, Bush handled the bar patrons with tremendous skill and diplomacy.
On Day Three, the students split up to attend a Ted Cruz rally at the state fair grounds, a Bernie Sanders town hall event north of Iowa City, and for a few of the grad students an academic conference on elections sponsored by the University of Iowa. The students reconvened after dinner to end their day with an exciting Rand Paul rally at the University of Iowa’s student union.
Overall, the Iowa caucus experience has been thrilling for both the students and faculty. As one student noted, “It is pretty amazing to think we may have personally met the future president of the United States.” The adventure isn’t over yet; on Monday evening, February 1, they will be observing both the Democratic and Republican caucuses before beginning their long journey back to Boone, North Carolina!
— Phillip Ardoin (@ardoinpj) January 30, 2016